Wicked City: Episode 102 Running with the Devil (Preview)

ED WESTWICK, ERIKA CHRISTENSEN

Wicked City keeps up the intensity of the pilot and the white knuckle ride continues as Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) and his new, and unwanted, partner Paco Conteras (Gabriel Luna) try to stop serial killer Kent Galloway (Ed Westwick) from killing his next victim.  Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga) is spotted talking with Roth and Galloway choses another victim. The police race to find the woman before she becomes the next victim.

Despite a slow open, the newest addition to the ABC lineup promises to deliver once the series finds its feet.  Wicked City gives us flawed heroes and a killer who apparently finds his perfect mate.  Westwick as the child loving killer spares his previous victim Betty BeaumontaIne (Erika Christensen) because she has kids. 

He learns, as she does, that this single mom, and nurse, is up for just about anything and the killer sets about seeing just how far she is willing to go.  In the pilot, he intimidates her into leaving work to meet him at the club. Once there, when he gives up going after McClaren, she agrees to go along on a “threesome.”

Running with the Devil could be describing Betty’s journey with killer Kent. She willingly goes along with his sexual plans for Mallory. Things go awry however after a bit of bondage when Kent and Betty fall asleep after their threesome  and the woman disappears.  In the episode, Galloway must track down the missing Mallory before the police find her.

Apart from Wicked City looking at 1980s Los Angeles with its abundance of drugs, sex, Hollywood hopefuls and decadent debauchery, the series looks at the “perfect storm” connection of two people who look to become the 1980 Southern Californian version of  Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck,  aka (The Lonely Hearts Killers).

This episode shows the new partners, Roth and Paco starting to work together instead of against one another. It also gives the viewer another glimpse at the world of the 1980s, as the two cops head to an MTV music video shoot. Roth states that a channel with only music videos will never last, an attitude that was shared by many in when MTV started.

As another nod to the real world of Los Angeles in the 1980s Joe Walsh, who changed the Eagles‘ style and attitude in 1975, has a brilliant cameo as the MTV music video director who Roth and Conteras question during their investigation.

Joe Walsh
Joe Walsh (Behind the scenes.)

As the two detectives follow leads and struggle to get ahead of their suspected serial killer, Roth upsets an old flame and McClaren finds new purpose.  Wicked City offers the audience some complex characters with a lot of depth and real touches of truth.  Sisto is convincing as the family man who is wants to stop another Hillside Strangler from becoming a headline and racking up a number of victims.

Farmiga is compelling as the girl with a dream caught up in some pretty horrifying circumstances. Erika Christensen manages to make her “Nurse Betty” a real woman with enough insecurities and complexities that her attraction to Galloway feels right.  Someone who might have gone their whole life without ever exhibiting “bad behavior” until meeting Kent.

Brit actor Ed Westwick makes his killer charismatic, personable and attractive enough that he feels as real as the rest of the cast. A terrifying charmer who loves kids and is compelled to murder beautiful women.

Wicked City airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and discover Los Angeles back in the 1980s where serial killers seemed to lurk around every street corner or seedy club. Running with the Devil airs November 3.

 

 

Hemlock Grove: Season 3 – Let the Weirdness Begin

Bill Skarsgård as Roman Godfrey

It is difficult not to like a show that starts its third season, as Hemlock Grove does,  with a truck driver who has a mannikin in his cab that he has a “thing” with. Said thing being “oral sex” something that he says, to the mute plastic female beside him, is not really sex at all. The president says so.  This little simulation is stopped when he hits a naked man with his vehicle.

As he rushes to the victim’s aid, the struck man changes into a werewolf and other shape changers arrive to surround the driver.  This hapless man, with his plastic girlfriend, then begins to pray:

“Our Father who does art in heaven…”

It is not apparent whether this poor chap is so rattled that he messes up the Lord’s Prayer or if he is, perhaps, a bit “limited.” It could  well be the latter, after all, he was about to partake in simulated oral sex with a store dummy.

In Hemlock Grove, things are weird and wonderful. This little opening scene in the first episode of season three (the final season as Netflix will not be bringing the show back) proves that in terms of misdirection this series is master. The poor man who is convinced he will die, has his truck stolen by the werewolves instead of being eaten.

The humor in this episode, titled A Place to Fall belies the darkness of the series. Famke Janssen is the matriarch of the Godfrey clan of Ipirs, Olivia,  who has an almost incestuous love/hate relationship with her son Roman (Bill Skarsgård) and whose daughter Shelley (Madeleine Martin) she keeps around for her trust fund. 

Granted, the “keeping Shelley around” has just recently transpired, as Roman’s bid to be her guardian has failed at the court hearing.

Hemlock Grove has a fascinating cast of characters, an incestuous and warped familial set up that consists of gypsies and the clan Godfrey.  Olivia has another love/hate relationship with Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) who is a mad scientist type who, in this opening episode, put his stored consciousness into a Greek deliveryman and then prompted an argument that ended with him slapping “himself.”

There is a flying lizard man; Dr. Arnold Spivak (J.C. MacKenzie) who kidnapped Roman’s daughter,  a genetically created replacement for Shelley, a vat full of liquid human parts for Roman to imbibe, instead of eating people to get his nutrients and all sorts of nefarious, and illegal, activities going on with the gypsies. 

Spivak, is missing and being looked for in earnest by just about everyone…

The series feels a little like a dysfunctional and hopped up Addams Family mixed with a twisted Dark Shadows reboot.  Granted, Dark Shadows was about a pretty dysfunctional family with all sorts of secrets, a vampire, werewolf, witch, ghost, etc but Hemlock Grove has the added fillip of incest and a mother that makes “Mommy Dearest Crawford”  look like Mary Poppins.

Anyone who watched the previous two seasons will remember that Olivia has cancer, or had cancer that Dr. Pryce refused to treat for ages. She gets her revenge in this episode in another humorous scene. Pryce believes the feds are there to raid his illegal and unethical research labs. Panicking he tells everyone to destroy everything, including Roman’s liquid libation of people parts.

When he goes to meet the “agents” he learns that they are investigating a paperwork impropriety, nothing to do with the lab work at all. Olivia tells the doc that, in essence, payback is a b*tch.  The entire exercise had to do with his not treating her cancer, even though he had the means to do so and making her wait.

The third season has started with a mix of comedy and black humor. It is also maintaining that weirdness that Hemlock Grove does so well.  Famke Janssen looks nowhere near her reported 50 years and is deliciously evil and self centered as Olivia Godfrey.  The entire cast delivers, and as well they should, living in their characters’ skin for two seasons.

This is a complex verse. It is highly recommended that new viewers take a trip down memory lane by watching the prior seasons to see who is who. The journey may be confusing and require note taking to keep everyone straight, but it will be worth it.  While not quite Grand Guignol of the small screen, Hemlock Grove is eclectic and skewed entertainment.

Netflix released the entire last season on October 23. Watch the whole thing in one setting, or, take a moment to refresh the plot via a bit of binge watching and take it one step at a time.

Z Nation: The Collector – George R.R. Martin, Homages and Humor (Review)

Z Nation - Season 2

Z Nation this week in The Collector is a brilliant mixture of homages and humor, in other words like many other episodes of the second season although this one has George R.R. Martin. This one, however, stands above the rest in terms of total weirdness and Anastasia Baranova gets the two best lines in the whole episode.

At the start of The Collector, Murphy is in the back of the car the group commandeered in the last episode. With an inexplicable cowboy hat on his head, Murphy is laying down and Doc attempts to get Murphy to help  forage for food. Murphy can see his friend’s brain pulsating through his skull. As he starts to rise, Murphy wakes up…

The two go into the forest to find food and Roberta Warren honks the horn for them to return. After Doc warns Murphy not to eat the bark of the skinny trees, (“How does Ewell Gibbons do it?”) he heads to the car but Murphy is drawn to a brain suspended over the forest floor. Reaching for the dangling organ, he falls into a trap.

With his previous record of escape attempts the group believe that Murphy has taken off again, not realizing that he has been captured by The Collector (Tom Beyer). As they begin their search, Addy grumbles about the situation:

“I’m gonna be really pissed if my last words are ‘Murphy where are you?'”

Murphy, in the meantime, is being examined by The Collector and is doomed to become one of his “interactive” exhibits. The madman is setting up a Z museum, which already has one “celebrity zombie” in George R.R Martin, complete with two zombie assistants. Zombie George has a pen strapped to his hand so he can still sign book copies.

*Sidenote: This episode has a number of references to other films and one other television show (Z Nation has referenced this AMC TV show before) The Walking Dead. When explaining to Murphy how he was “there” when things went down at a Comic Con and the “Game of Thrones” author was turned into a zombie, The Collector says “some dirty guy with a crossbow tried to help George escape…got eaten.” Clearly a nod to Daryl Dixon, aka Norman Reedus from TWD.*

The Collector’s exhibits include the zombie animals, a Phyto zombie and a blaster zombie. Perhaps the best  bit of the episode are the homage moments. Beyer’s character refers to Murphy as “bright eyes” a clear nod to Planet of the Apes after catching Murphy with a animal control wire, just as they do in the original film. Later, when The Collector is forcing Murphy to bite 10K, he shocks him and Murphy says, “I’m working here.” Another reference to the Midnight Cowboy, “I’m walkin’ here…”

As the group go house to house searching for the missing Murphy, Addy and Doc have a brilliantly comic exchange. Going up to the next  house the pair pause in front of the door. Doc says:

“On three…One, Tw…”

(Addy kicks open the door and a zombie rushes out attacking Doc)

Doc: (under the zombie that Addy has mercy-d with her bat) “I said on three!”

Addy: (Exasperated) If we do a three count at every house we’re gonna be here all day.”

Z Nation - Season 2
Z Nation’s answer to Talking Dead…

This is a busy episode, Dan Merchant has thrown a lot of business in this one. The “talkshow” where The Collector questions Murphy is another wink to The Walking Dead referencing the AMC’s “after” show talking heads series, “The Talking Dead” (Z Nation’s version is called “Dead Live”). Beyer’s character wears what appear to be a “kendo outfit” that looks not to dissimilar to the outfit worn by Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. 

Stepping away from all the homages evident in this episode there is also a splendid sense of irony at play. Murphy and 10K have had a huge falling out since the young man killed Cassandra. As the group finish their door to door search for Murphy they end up in town and it is 10K who stumbles across Murphy and his comic con obsessed captor.

Apart from the heavy irony in the episode, it appears that Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith) is getting attached to, or at least a lot more compassionate toward,   Murphy when she promises him that she will not leave him alone when they get to California.

Observations:

In the last two episodes, Warren has been in the periphery of scenes with little to do. Is this a forewarning that the leader may become zombie fodder in the near future? Addy, on the other hand,  has been pretty prevalent, in this episode she is the most vocal and active. It is Addy who  finds the “breadcrumbs” left by 10K.  Roberta’s compassion toward Murphy may be a sign of bad things to come.

With the inclusion of Vasquez, Warren has had to assert her authority a number of times. The group as a whole have become quite close, although no one is as close as Doc and 10K.  Murphy is slowly becoming, it seems, more zombie as the show moves on.  His preoccupation with brains and his enthusiastic, if forced, repast of the organ is not a good sign.

Z Nation is a series that vacillates between the absurd to the sublime, sometimes in the same episode and The Collector is one such case.  From the comic con collector’s film posters (that gave a chronological time scale of the zombie film) to his clear focus on the monetary aspect of “after the apocalypse” The Collector was obviously a steady patron of the comic con world.

Z Nation - Season 2
Murphy attacks “Last Samurai” aka The Collector

Priceless moments like the muscle memory of Martin who will, apparently go through the motions of signing books throughout eternity and Murphy’s clothes, laid out after his hot shower, that looked like a sort of  “Final Fantasy” cosplay  outfit made this a brilliant and entertaining episode.

There was also the whole “press a button make Murphy scream” schtick that just never got old…

The series airs Fridays on SyFy and just improves with each new episode. Z Nation has also just won the coolest series ever award by having George R.R. Martin guest star as his own zombie.  Tune in and see what happens to the Murphy gang next…And keep an eye on that knife of Warren’s. Is it getting bigger with each episode? Answers down below, or on a postcard…

 

Dr Ken: Halloween-Aversary – Comedy Gold (Review)

JONATHAN SLAVIN, KEN JEONG

In keeping with what is now tradition on Dr. Ken,  Halloween-Aversary is comedy gold.  Also as with each episode thus far, their Halloween special is set on the day/night of the holiday itself and is not the focus of the episode.  There are costumes, candy, a skeleton and everyone in the show have some brilliant comedic moments.  This series has now reached the point where the laughs are guaranteed, regardless of the storyline.

This week’s show features a painful trip down memory lane for Ken.  At the Park home, Dave is dressed as Dr. Frankenstein “who is the real monster” and Molly is annoyed that she has to babysit. As the family work out who is going to what party, Molly repeats the story of Ken’s “botched” proposal, as revealed by grandma, 20 years previously.

Ken then tells the real story of how he was dressed as Judge Ito (Cue flashback sequence.) and as he goes to ask Allison to marry him,  she ruins it by beating him to the punch. He angrily reacts and tells her she messed up the moment with a “mouth-fart.”  Later, he decides to re-propose and get his wife a new ring.

At work, Pat takes a medicated lollipop (sucker) from Julie’s desk and Damona takes advantage of his “high-ness” to get a lot of things approved. Ken tries to buy a new engagement ring and Allison almost finds out when the bank gives her a credit card fraud call. While Ken tries to keep her from finding out he is using the card they get into an argument.

KATE SIMSES, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, DAVE FOLEY
KATE SIMSES, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, DAVE FOLEY

Ken gets so angry that he decides to call the whole thing off. After the big blow up, Hector tells Allison about the “surprise.”

In terms of comedy, this episode was the Rolls Royce of the series to date.  The jokes, gags and funny lines were many and delivered at a pace that almost took the viewer’s breath away.  Once again there were moments of truth in the performances of all the actors. Amid the stand out moments, Kate Simses once again gave her character that special touch (Watch for the red dragon moment) that makes her the queen of nuance.

Memorable moments:

Hector’s friend Keith.

Pat slamming his hand in the door (a hysterically cringeworthy moment capped by Damona yelling at him not to “play with it.) and Dave Hoyle’s  entire performance as the hopped up administrator.

Molly struggling to cover up her destruction of Ken’s medical skeleton and telling little brother Dave that “Your scent is all over this Dave.

Allison wearing a witch costume, her argument with Ken and her increasing ire over his gloating.

Ken: his costume, both in 1995 and the present. The dirt nap reference and his “proposal” as well as his usual portrayal of the doctor with “tude.”

Dr. Ken has moved the comedic bar with this special episode.  Brilliant comedy with a tiny bit of sentiment and a single tear.

KRISTA MARIE YU
Molly aka Krista Marie Yu

With this last episode the show has become a true ensemble effort with everyone knocking it out of the park in terms of comedy turns that make one laugh uproariously. Tisha Campbell-Martin, Kate Simses, Dave Foley, Jonathan Slavin (who manages to get the last laugh), Suzy Nakamura, Albert Tsai and Krista Marie Yu all had moments of sheer comedy bliss on Halloween-Aversary not once or twice but repeatedly.

Dr. Ken is filmed in front of a live studio audience and there are Twitter pics to prove it.  Although when watching the show, it is easy to hear that the people watching the performances are genuinely loving the action.  This is an ensemble sitcom with Ken Jeong as the glue that keeps the whole thing moving towards its goal of delighted laughter for the audience in the studio and the viewer at home.

Dr. Ken airs Fridays on ABC and has established itself as a show that equals comedic satisfaction.  To watch this sitcom is to love it.  Ken Jeong has proven that he and his fellow cast members can deliver the laughs and the show is “OMG” funny. Tune in and enjoy the fun that is Dr. Ken.

 

Heroes Reborn: June 13th Part 1 (Review)

Heroes Reborn - Season 1

In Heroes Reborn June 13th Part 1 a lot of things are revealed, not least of which is just who “Tommy” and Malina really are.  Their true identities come to light and we finally learn just what happened at Odessa.  A face from the past shows up at the start of the episode; Angela Petrelli (mother of Nathan and Peter) who tries to warn Mohinder Suresh that Erica Kravid has been lying to him and to the world.

While the long awaited arrival of Hiro Nakamura heralded a new turning point and allowed Noah to try to stop the Odessa bombing, there were too many “butterflies” and things could not be altered.

Claire dies, twice in essence, but gives birth to twins who will save the world. Now at least the origins of Tommy (Nathan) and Malina are uncovered and the source of their power explained to a degree. Hiro sends the two babies back to 1999 (his line of “partying like its 1999” was priceless) and once again the whole question of fate and time travel becomes either an issue or a brilliant plot point.

On a sidenote, the scene from the previous episode where Claire and Tommy are in Paris and she shows him “The 9th Wonder” comic book in French reveals a foretelling of this week’s information about who the boy really is. She finds the comic and the title is “Nathan Visits the Future” and Claire tells him the character on the cover looks like him. In keeping with the lore of the verse thus far, it is him. 

Tommy is Nathan, named for his uncle, by his grandmother.  While this whole thing feels a little like the novelty song, I’m My Own Grandpa, it also points out the whole Hiro “fate” and time changing conundrum.

At the start of the new series, Hiro is apparently tricked into the game Evernow where he cannot used his evo powers to escape.  Evo game designer Hachiro Otomo (Hiro Kanagawa) grabs hold of Hiro (Masi Oka) and, like the character he designs; “Katana Girl,” the designer can enter into his own game and this allows him to trap Hiro there.

On a sidenote, Hiro Kanagawa is one busy performer with appearances in iZombie, Dark Matter, The Returned, The Whispers, and a number of other televisions shows on top of the 2014 Godzilla.

As well as Hiro being trapped at the time of the Odessa Summit explosion, Tommy (Nathan) and Malina are shown as teenagers, which means that they have already been sent back to 1999 by Hiro to save them from Erica Kravid.  In essence,  proving that Hiro’s assertions that fate cannot be changed means that the explosion was never going to be stopped and that these two teens will in fact save the world.

Heroes Reborn - Season 1
One of the Noah’s with Molly…After the Odessa explosion.

All this before the second part of June 13th even airs. There have been grumbles about this  new look at Tim Kring’s verse not following the first season of his previous show Heroes.   Viewers who were expecting a “season five” of the first show, should stop watching now. They should also remember that, for the most part, the series never really had the same appeal or excitement level after the first season.

Too many new characters introduced in season two detracted from the show. This meant a watering down of the verse and even detracted from the only real interesting storyline of the second season, Hiro’s time travel back to the days of Kensei, whose sword he is attached to in the first season.

Of course the entire sphere of time travel, even without Hiro’s butterfly paranoia, is tricky at best and really just so much smoke and mirrors. For instance, Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) is not only  occupying the same space, a no-no according to most time travel films, he is about to interact with himself as well.

This episode sees Phoebe’s transformation, Dennis’ disappearance and the “apparent’ death of Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy).  As some viewer comments on the IMDb message board, why did Hiro save Mohinder only to let him die moments later.  The easy answer is the butterfly theory of Hiro’s where seemingly if it is one’s fate, it cannot be changed. 

This means Mohinder was meant to die, which then begs the question, why is he still “narrating” the episodes?  The point is this…Does it matter?

Not really.

Heroes Reborn is clever, witty, full of twists and turns and has some epic moments in it. Example: Katana Girl and the ability to enter the video game Evernow by pulling the Kensei sword from its scabbard.  This is imaginative telly  and viewers who cannot enjoy the show are definitely “over-thinking” it.

The series airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in and see the second part of June 13th and see what Hiro does next in the tale of Nathan and Malina. Do not forget, that at the end of the episode we see Nathan celebrating his birthday with mom (the nurse at St Judes) who gives him  a cupcake with a single candle on it.  Is this an allegory? Watch the series and see.